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talk_to_kids.jpgParents, when it comes to teaching your kids about sex, it pays to remember what it was like to be young.

Far too often do I find myself in conversations with parents of teens and preteens who seem to have completely forgotten what it was like to be in the shoes of their children. Many of these parents have jumped on the "abstinence until marriage" bandwagon even though they themselves were sexually active as teens. I do my best to apply logic to the situation but logic is rarely of much use when dealing with the emotional instincts of protective parents.

It is important to remember that this isn't about hypocrisy. Just because you did something when you were young doesn't mean that you should allow your children to do it too. If you spent two years as a heroine junky slamming needles in your mid teens, it is good parenting to do everything you possibly can to keep your kids from following in your footsteps. Though sex carries with it serious consequences, sex is not heroine. Be careful that you don't treat it as a toxic subject.

Realize that your teenagers are going to be curious about sex and driven to explore their sexuality. Accept that if they choose to have sex, there is absolutely NOTHING you can do to stop them short of Gestapo-esk measures that are unhealthy for both you and your children. Do your very best to remember what it was like to be young and in love and how powerful those feelings were. Remember all the mistakes you made. Be honest with your kids about your mistakes because this will give them the opportunity to not repeat them.

Respect your teen's desire for privacy. They deserve time alone in their room and to give permission for others to enter their sanctuary before others are allowed to enter. This means that you knock on their door and not open it until you are given permission. Accept the fact that you do not have a right to know intimate details of your teen's sex life any more than they have the right to know how many orgasms you had last week. You have the right to make rules in your house, but these rules must be reasonable. The more reasonable you are, the more your teen will trust you as a guide.

Try to not project your anxiety onto your teen. The choices they make are THEIR choices, not yours. Your teens are not robots that you have programmed, they are humans that you have taught by example. They will make mistakes but hopefully your parenting has prepared them to minimize the possibility and consequences of these mistakes. If you catch your teens making out or doing the full on nasty, try not to freak out. Getting emotional isn't going to help you, your teen, or their partner. Be rational with yourself and your teen.

You know why your teen was doing it. It is for the very same reason everyone else does it. Isolate your fears before you react. Are you afraid they will get pregnant? Talk to your teen and make sure he or she is using forms of birth control that have a combined effectiveness of 99%. Are you afraid of STIs? Make sure your teen knows how to properly use condoms and oral barriers? Are you afraid your teen is being taken advantage of or taking advantage of their partner? Assess your teen's relationships by talking to their friends. Make sure that your teen understands that they have the right to say "no" and end any relationship at any time.

Give up on the delusion that your teen is going to stay a virgin any longer than they wish to stay a virgin. I've spoken to several parents who completely believed that their children were remaining abstinent who are now grandparents. In fact, in every single set of parents that I talked to who believed their children were abstinent until marriage, none actually were. The number of parents in denial is shocking. The oddity of this is that their teenagers were more likely to tell me or my wife that they were sexually active before their parents. Why? Simply because we remember what it was like when we were young and we aren't afraid to admit the truth. Young adults respect that and only when you've earned a young person's respect, can you hope to hear them tell you the truth and ask the questions that they so desperately need answered.

These teens aren't having sex to stick it to their parents. They don't want to get pregnant. They don't want to disappoint anyone. They just want to have sex, most often with someone that they really care about. It is foolish for adults to minimize the feelings of their teenage children. The love that they feel for their girlfriends and boyfriends is very real and in every way as powerful as the love that you feel for your spouse. Perhaps they may not understand the longevity of these feelings but unless they live through a failed relationship, they'll never understand that feeling change.

If you ask me, I'd say that we ask a lot of our teenagers. We ask a lot of them that is in direct conflict with human nature. In my opinion, asking them to behave as asexual androids until marriage is ludicrous. In my experience, attempting to actually gain this form of control over your teen's genitals is destructive. Teens function better when they are being guided and perform very poorly when being pushed. Teach your teens how to protect themselves and they most often will. Forbid them from something that human nature demands from them and you will have created a liar and an ignorant tourist in a very dangerous world.

Write the Author: Kidder Kaper

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Well said, Kidder.

I was shocked when I took my 16 year old daughter to get birth control to hear the nurse's aide lament about how few young women actually come to get birth control before becoming sexually active.

Modeling is powerful. My mother took me to get birth control at 16, too - before I was sexually active. That was truly a gift.

Somewhere in all this mess about how we parents handle our teens sexuality is the subject of where are they going to do it? That's a hot topic, to say the least. Even the more evolved parents who get their teens birth control can rarely see their way through to allowing them to have sex in their own home...which leaves them experiencing their first sexual discoveries in furtive, tense and potentially dangerous situations. Makes no sense to me.

I love that you are talking about this!!!


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Kidder Kaper

Kidder has been theorizing and writing about human sexuality since 1993, when he began work on his primary goal: "Teaching the world to be unafraid to enjoy sex."


Laura Rad

Laura Rad has been educating herself and others about sexuality for over seven years. You can find Laura every week chatting with the crew of the Sex is Fun Podcast.


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